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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Post Game Quick Hits: Habs 2 - Sens 4

In an interesting turn of events, the Ottawa Senators pulled a 'Montreal Canadiens' move on the Habs by being outshot and outplayed but ultimately winning the game 4-2. Full marks to the Sens who were a team decimated by injurying and were missing Daniel Alfredsonn, Jason Spezza and Nick Foligno. On paper, this game should have been a walk in the park for the Habs and for the first 20 to 40 minutes, it was. Montreal roared out to a 2-0 lead in the first ten minutes of the game on goals by Cammalleri - his goal made it 1-0 and was the 20,000th goal in Habs franchise history - and Pouliot - his 1st in a Habs uniform - and continued to apply the pressure and outshoot the Sens. The problem is that A) Pascal Leclaire was spectacular on the night and B) the Habs couldn't cash in our their chances. That paved the way for Peter Regin to bring the Sens to within 1 with 8 mins left in the 1st. Up until that point, however, the Habs had the Sens by the scruff of their neck. They unfortunately let them get up off of the matt and that was their undoing.

1 - The Habs powerplay was a non-factor last night because the Habs failed to draw even one penalty. Yep, that's right, they were blanked on the penalty, while the Sens enjoyed the Habs indiscipline and the subsequent five powerplays - they converted on the second one to tie the game.

2 - Halak is human after all! Whew, what a run he had though. After being named the 1st star of the week in the NHL, Halak let in three goals last night and did not look like the brick wall that the last four opponents have faced. Also, and perhaps coincidentally, the Habs final outshot their opponent last night (31-28) and Halak faced less than 30 shots for the first time in a month. Maybe he needs that extra rubber to be sharp. Who knows. Either way, Halak can not be blamed for the loss last night.

3 - Who's 2nd line is it anyway? Wow, what a difference a day makes. More specifically, what a difference Brian Gionta made to that second line. Gomez, Gionta and Pouliot were a force last night. They had chance after chance after chance. The Habs new and improved second scoring line wreaked havoc on the Sens defenders all night and this can only bode well for the future. The result of all of their hard work was Pouliot's 1st goal in a Habs uniform, 1 assist for Gomez, 1 assist for Gionta and 14 of the Habs 31 shots on net. Wow. We all knew that Gionta and Gomez click, but Pouliot seems to be a good addition the that line as well. Now, one game does not a season make, however if they can keep it up, Montreal might suddenly have a great one-two combination.

4 - Markov is a stud. Andrei Markov continues to show that he is one of the best defenseman in the league. Last night he added another assist and a +1 to his stats giving him 7 points in 6 games. That and he is clearly helping the Habs breakouts and powerplays. Of course Habs' fans missed him when he was gone, but having him back is showing us, even more, how important he is to our team.

5 - Last night's fourth line consisted of Lapierre centering SK74 and Dags. Umm, ya. While they tried hard all night I could not help but think that all three might be expendable and could end up being part of trades going forward. It will be interesting to see what happens before the trade deadline but my question is: Who, if any, of those three players will still be playing for the Habs in April?

I guess we knew the streak couldn't last forever but last night was a VERY winnable game that the Habs let slip away. So instead of leapfrogging the Sens into 6th place overall in the East, the Habs now sit three points back of the Sens (who have two games in hand), and have to once again worry about the teams behind them in the standings.

Last night was the 41st game of the Habs season marking the offical halfway point of the season. So far, in this up and down season, that Habs are playing .500 hockey - 41GP, 19W, 19L, 3OTL for a total of 41 points. If they put up the same numbers over the next 41 games, they'll end the season with 82 points, a far cry from the 93 that got them the last playoff spot last year.

Now a day off before the Habs head to Tampa and Miami to finish off this road trip.

K.

PS: I will have my halfway mark player grades going up soon. Checkback often!

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